Send your client a blank invoice

By Kevin on August 30, 2008 in Uncategorized

I moved into a new house earlier this year and spent a crazy amount with an audio/video company to come out and install a couple flat screen TVs, speakers in every room, Blue-ray DVD players, the works.

One day the TV stopped working. The power light didn’t just turn from green to red, it went black. No power. Hmm, did the TV get fried somehow? Blow a fuse? I dunno…guess I’ll just have to watch the upstairs TV!

The next day my assistant called to tell me that the TV people came out and fixed the problem. I didn’t even know she called them. What was the issue? “Turns out the plug came loose from the wall,” she explained. “The painters must have bumped it when they were here.”

Oh no! Mortal embarrassment. The classic first question from tech support, “Is the device plugged in?” Geez I felt like an idiot.

“What did they charge us for plugging in the TV?” I asked. “Nothing,” Margaret replied. “They said it was free.”

Wow. Even though it was an easy fix they did have to send a guy all the way out. That was nice of them.

And then a week later I got an invoice from them.
– On-site service call = $59.00
– Courtesy discount = minus $59.00
– Total due = $0.00

If they didn’t want any money, why did they spend the time and stamp required to send me an invoice? Three reasons.

1) They wanted to make sure I knew they were doing me a favor
2) The wanted to make sure I knew what that favor was worth
3) They wanted to warn me that stupid service calls might cost me $59 in the future

I used to tell my team at AXIOM all the time that it was fine to occassionally let the client scope creep you if it’s for a longer-term great cause, but ALWAYS make sure to send a written change order or invoice that documents the things done out of scope (ie, what the favor was) and the amount that we could have charged for it. At the very least it will make the client think twice before asking for another round of “favors.”

It’s great to provide insane service and exceed client expectations, and blank invoices are a great way to make sure they know the size of your favor.


Kevin Kruse is a NY Times bestselling author and keynote speaker. Get more success and tips from his newsletter at and check out keynote video clips. His new book, Employee Engagement 2.0, teaches managers how to turn apathetic groups into emotionally committed teams.

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